Apple’s annual WorldWide Developers Conference, or WWDC, is heading to San Jose in California on June 4. WWDC is where Tim Cook normally takes to the stage to tell us all about the great new software and products Apple has been working on. They’ll be sharing all the news from 10:00 am PT, or 1:00 pm ET on Apple’s website.
So, what’ve we go to look forward to this time, and more importantly, why should you care?
WWDC was where, traditionally, developers got to see the features and improvements coming to Apple’s various operating systems. This was so they could get a heads-up on how to make their apps, services and products work with Apple’s new tech, and what new opportunities this would afford them and, consequently, us.
However, in recent years it feels like it’s become less of a conference for developers and instead another opportunity for Apple to show off all its new stuff to Joe Public. Last year, for example, saw a new version of the App Store, new versions of the iMac, including the bonkers iMac Pro, the HomePod smart speaker, a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro and an update to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Along with this there were all the new versions of the iOS, macOS and watchOS operating systems.
What is Apple likely to announce?
This is all speculation of course, but that’s why you’re here right? Everyone loves a bit of rumour and gossip.
iPhone SE 2
The original iPhone SE was a huge sales success for Apple when it launched back in 2016. It was the perfect device for those who thought a 4.7-inch screen was too big (remember those halcyon days?) but still wanted all the trappings of the larger iPhone 6s, like a fingerprint sensor.
So, it leaves you wondering, why hasn’t there been a new one? Well, we’re not too sure. But now could be the perfect time for a new SE – the iPhone 8 is basically an updated iPhone 7 given that the X was such a step forward. So a smaller iPhone with all the tech of the 8 would be a great fit. But, whether Apple would want to dilute its iPhone product line that much is unclear.
A return to 4-inch phones would be slightly unusual given the current trend for maximising screen-to-body ratio – just look at Nokia’s new phones. So maybe a phone smaller than an 8, but with an edge-to-edge display and, of course, the notch might be in the offing?
Let’s get one thing straight, we will see iOS 12 on June 4. What will be included in iOS 12, though, is unclear.
Rumours have abounded that this version will finally bring true cross-platform functionality to iOS and macOS – meaning that developers would only have to make one app which could run across Apple’s mobile and computer operating systems. If this sounds a bit techy and inconsequential, it shouldn’t.
Firstly, it would make apps on macOS much better. They’ve historically been given less care than their iOS counterparts because more people have iPhones rather than iMacs or MacBooks.
Secondly, it could allow Apple to kick off turning all its OSs (or is it OSes?) into one giant OS to rule them all – if they wanted to do that. However, there have been rumours that Apple isn’t ready to do this yet and we’ll have to wait until 2019 instead.
In less grandiose rumours, iOS 12 will probably bring new Animoji for the iPhone X, a redesigned stocks app (woo), better and deeper integration of Siri into iOS, improved parental controls – this is almost definite, considering the new iPad aimed at the education market – and improved augmented reality features.
Not a lot is known about this update beyond the potential for cross-platform working with iOS. If that doesn’t transpire at this WWDC, then well, expect bug fixes, performance improvements and maybe a little aesthetic redesign.
New iPad Pro
The last iPad Pro launch was at last year’s WWDC – so we might see updates to the 10.5 and 12.9-inch models, but not completely new ones.
It seems a little unlikely, given the high ticket price of the iPad Pros, but given the rumours of true cross-platform functionality supposedly coming to iOS 12, don’t rule it out.
The watchOS normally gets an update at WWDC, and it’s likely we’ll see a big update to it this time around.
The Apple Watch is the best-selling watch, let alone smartwatch, on the planet. But unlike most of its smartwatch competitors, particularly those running Google’s WearOS, it doesn’t support third-party watch faces. This means that the Apple Watch user experience is much less customizable than its competitors.
Code found within version 4.3.1 watchOS does suggest that this support might be coming, and if it is, expect to find it announced in San Jose on June 4.
We might also see some additional health tracking functionality. Apple has been throwing its weight behind health tracking features and even clinical trials for a while. Although, these changes will likely be limited to algorithms updates and maybe a couple of new sport tracking features – it’s likely any significant changes to the OS will need corresponding hardware upgrades.
Apple recently announced AirPlay 2, the first big update to its audio and video casting system. Two of the headline features were true multi-room audio and stereo pairs, sort of like surround sound but with two HomePods.
Does this mean we’ll see more improvements to the HomePod at WWDC? Almost certainly. The HomePod is showing that it’s capable of executing more complex tasks, so we might see a deeper and smarter integration with HomeKit being announced. Or maybe even HomePod working as a computer to tie all of your Apple devices, from your phone, to your Apple Watch, to your MacBook in the background?
Apple only launched the 4K Apple TV back in September, so it seems unlikely that there’d be a new version coming at WWDC.
However, Apple apparently set aside over $1bn to fund some original shows, so we might get to see some early clips of this new content venture. This would certainly fit their business plan which stated they want to double the revenue they gain from its service businesses. So don’t be surprised if Tim Cook’s announcing the next Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones on Monday.
What won’t we see from Apple?
Again, we're just speculating here, but we're pretty sure that Apple isn't going to announce any of these new products at WWDC 2018.
✗ New iPhone
We won’t see a new iPhone XI, or 9, or 8s. The pattern just doesn’t fit, Apple always announces new iPhones in September. So come back to Tech.co in August for all the rumours about those!
✗ Apple ‘Star’
Rumours have also been circulating that Apple is planning to release a tablet-cum-phone-cum-laptop thing, codenamed ‘Star’. This might feature an ARM processor, traditionally reserved for mobiles and tablets, but in the form factor of a laptop. But then again, it might not. Either way, we won’t find out at WWDC.
✗ New Watch
A new Apple Watch also looks unlikely at this point. The Series 3 only debuted in September, so while an OS update is almost certain, a new Watch won’t be coming with it.
✗ New iPad
Apple only launched 9.7-inch iPad a couple of months ago, so it would be pretty odd if it released another new one in June.
Apple’s Product Lineup – Refresh or Kill?
Of course, Apple makes a lot more than just phones, tablets and watches. WWDC is also a time when the Palo Alto company refreshes some of its other products. So are any of these like to see any light-touch updates?
? MacBook Air
There hasn’t been a new MacBook Air since 2015, despite both the regular MacBook and the MacBook Pro receiving updates in 2016. It seems to be the unloved child of the Apple’s laptop line-up.
So does the Air still have a place at the table? Or has it been usurped by the iPad Pros in recent years? After all, the MacBook Air, like an iPad, has never had a disc drive and has a much lower resolution screen than the recent iPad Pros. It’s worth remembering that Apple had no qualms about killing off the previously successful iPad Air line back in 2016.
? iPad Mini
The iPad Mini might be the next product line to fall on Tim Cook’s sword. The most recent Mini was the Mini 4, which also arrived on the scene way back in 2015. It’s hard to think of a genuine user case for small tablets nowadays with phone screens getting larger every day.
It’s clear with Apple’s recent emphasis on education, stylus integration and hybrid functionality that it views the role of tablets as a device that offers laptop-like performance, but better portability. Apple seems to view its MacBook Pros as consumer/professional devices and the iPad Pros and the regular MacBooks as devices for on-the-go computing. For everything else, you have your iPhone.
? Mac Pro
Ah, the trashcan computer. Apple’s blocky, brutalist powerhouse of a computer was designed for people doing the most intensive graphical work. It packed in some serious hardware into a device less than 10-inches tall: An Intel Xeon processor, up to 64GB RAM and two AMD graphics cards.
But, that was back in 2013. Sure, the Mac Pro still breezes through 4K video editing, but the fact that you couldn’t expand the hard drive and the “thermal core” design, which lent it the trashcan shape, has prohibited people taking it apart to fix. Apple has apparently been working on a replacement for a while – so WWDC might be our chance to see it.
? Mac Mini
The Mac Mini is another old, screen-less Apple computer. It was released back in 2014 and promised the full Mac experience in a 7.7-inch frame – all you needed to do was add peripherals.
It’s hard to see where the Mac Mini fits into Apple’s computing lineup. It’s fourth-generation Intel Core processor is now well past its use-by date and that it has no disc drive seems bizarre for a desktop computer. The Mac Mini really doesn’t seem long for this world.
See You in San Jose
Well done for sticking with us, that was a pretty long list of what, and what not to expect from WWDC.
All told though, it doesn’t feel like it's going to be a great year for Apple this time around. It’s likely there will be a lot more focus on updates to existing products and software, rather than launching the next must-have gizmo.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it might mean the September launch will have some of the genuinely exciting product launches we’ve seen from Apple in the past. Of course, though, only time will tell – so join us on Monday when we’ll be rounding-up all of the news you need to know about from WWDC 2018.
Read more about what Apple is up to on TechCo